Back in July 2009, Zelo Street published the very first Murdoch Is Served blogpost. There was no doubt in my mind, and that of anyone taking an objective and dispassionate view of the evidence, that Phonehackgate was not only serious, but was also likely to blow up in the faces of Rupert Murdoch, and Young Dave, who had hired former Screws editor Andy Coulson (since resigned from 10 Downing Street).
So I find it all too predictable that we have arrived at the point where the question is not whether Rupe and his troops are in check, but whether they are in check mate. The offer to settle with eight well known litigants out of the 24 at present pursuing action against News International, which has been costed at anywhere between 20 and 40 million notes, has been made in order to draw a line under the affair.
But is it going to be enough? Well, had the offer been made back in Summer 2009, it may have seen off any further problems. But it wasn’t, and so it isn’t: more claimants are appearing on a regular basis, the Met are now re-examining and reinvestigating, and the reputation of Yates Of The Yard is taking a serious battering.
That number of potential claimants does tend to vary wildly, depending on who is doing the estimating, but it is reckoned that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, one of the two originally jailed for phone hacking, had a target list of over three thousand names – from the Screws alone. Other papers may also have used his services.
Most of the print media is now reporting the affair, unlike the silence that surrounded the start of the case back in 2009, when the Guardian was very much ploughing a lone furrow. This led many commentators and bloggers to call it wrongly: such people were suckered by their own prejudice and a woeful ignorance of how the industry works.
As Nick Davies, author of the indispensible Flat Earth News and a major contributor to the investigation, put it, “dog doesn’t eat dog”. Newspapers tend not to report on one another’s misfortunes. This initially came into play on Phonehackgate, and, together with the story being run by the Guardian and featuring Andy Coulson, led to the blanket assumption by the right leaning part of the commentariat that it was a load of rotten lefties trying to run down the Tory Party.
Thus the more obvious explanation – that it was a case of straightforward criminality – was ignored, amid the howls of “non story”. But something that may cost Rupe and his troops north of 40 mil, and mean more folks getting guilty and doing time, is not a “non story”. It’s a very significant story, and one that some would do well to acknowledge they called completely wrong.Who would do well to make that acknowledgement? I’ll look at that next.